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g2                                                                                                                       B- POLEVOI
Varya's hand—for fearing that he ^ was dead, she would
bend over him every now and again to feel whether his
heart was beating.
He was alive; he breathed regularly and deeply. He
slept for the rest of the day, all night, and went on
sleeping as if no power on earth could wake him.
Early next morning a distant, monotonous droning
could be heard indistinctly above the sounds that filled
the forest. Alexei gave a start, raised his head from his
pillow and listened with strained attention.
Wild, irrepressible joy filled his ^ whole being. He lay
motionless, his eyes flashing with agitation. He could hear
the loud cracking of the stones cooling on the hearth,
the feeble chirping of the cricket, tired after its night's
performance, the calm and regular beat of the swaying
old pine-trees that grew over the dugout, and even the
patter of the heavy drops of spring moisture outside the
door. But above all these sounds the steady droning could
easily be distinguished. Alexei guessed that the sound
came from the engine of a "U-2" aircraft. The sound now
grew in volume, now subsided, but it never died out
entirely. Alexei held his breath. It was evident that the
aircraft was somewhere in the vicinity, that it was
circling over the forest, either scouting or looking for a
place to land.
"Varya, Varya!" Alexei called, trying to raise himself
on his elbow.
But Varya was not in the dugout. Excited women's voices
and hurrying footsteps were heard outside. Something
was happening there.
The? door of the dugout opened for an instant and
Fedka's freckled face appeared.
"Aunty Varya! Aunty Varya!" the boy cried out, and
then added in an excited voice: "The plane! It's circling
over ^us!" and vanished before Alexei could say a word.
With an effort Alexei sat up. The thumping of his
heart, the blood throbbing in his temples and the pain in
his injured feet sent tremors through his whole body. He
counted the circles the aircraft up there was making: one,
two, three, and, overcome by excitement, fell back on the
mattress and again plunged swiftly and irresistibly into
that sound, health-giving sleep.